Shining a spotlight on the urban problems that plague suburban schools

A recent story in the Daily Herald painted a grim picture of a Chicago suburban district struggling mightily with some big city problems: high poverty and low graduation rates, high absenteeism and  low teacher morale, high mobility and low test scores.

The suburban newspaper is highlighting a problem that is getting little attention in the education debates: suburban districts that don’t have the money, support and capacity to tackle their increasingly vulnerable student population. This issue was recently spotlighted in a report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

As the article explains:

East Aurora District 131 is an outlier in almost every possible way in the suburbs.

Nearly all 15,000 students live in poverty. The school has reached a level where they can give every student free breakfast and lunch every day. The student body is 86 percent Hispanic, 8 percent black. At the Anne Garcia Benavides Kindergarten Center, 68 percent of students are learning English. At Beaupre Elementary School the mobility rate is 37 percent, which means more than 1 in every 3 students move in or out during the school year, disrupting their education.

At East Aurora High School, 27 percent of students are chronically truant, meaning more than one-fourth of students miss 5 percent or more days without a valid excuse.

Every elementary school in East Aurora — except the Fred Rodgers Magnet Academy — has a negative score on the Daily Herald’s Poverty-Achievement Index, meaning even when compared to schools with similar economic demographics, District 131 is still falling behind.

Only 1 percent of the district’s students exceeded state standards on the latest PARCC test, and the high school’s average ACT of 17.1 is three points below the state average and eight points below that of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, right next door.

In its “Generations At Risk” series, the Daily Herald is shining an important spotlight on an issue that too many suburban communities ignore. We hope other towns take note of the barriers these districts face and the programs that are making a difference.

Photo courtesy of Kane County Connects.

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